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Argentina: Banana producers need urgent measures to avoid losses

Banana producers in Salta, Formosa and Jujuy will formally request a hearing with President Mauricio Macri, after considering that the efforts made by the Minister of Agrobusiness to position the current production, which barely exceeds 5,000 hectares in all three jurisdictions, were completely irrelevant.

"We want to talk to the president, we urgently need a response for the thousands of small producers who live from this activity and who, year after year, are sad witnesses of how their work costs less and less and, mainly, of the new deliberate lies from the official levels so that nothing changes," said the NEA regional director of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, Panfilo Ayala, after formalizing a union between Salta, Jujuy and Formosa, as they suffer the same problems.

According to Ayala, "Argentina had about 20,000 hectares of bananas; in Formosa, in the 70's and 80's, there were 12,000 hectares, currently there are 1,500 hectares, 560 producers and 500 families between packers and casual laborers."

"Ten years ago there were 7,000 hectares of banana in Salta, currently there are about 3,000 hectares and 200 producers. In Jujuy, a total of 12 producers are dedicated to this crop in over 600 hectares." "In Misiones, there are about fifty hectares to produce bananas," he said.

"We decided to work to meet immediately with President Mauricio Macri to explain to him the serious situation of the banana production in Argentina and to directly request measures that allow us to continue to exist as an agricultural subject of regional economies," he said.

"Historically we have made many claims to the government and received many fraudulent responses and  outrageous lies every season."

"In September 2016, the Minister of Agrobusiness, Ricardo Buryaile promised to obtain banana buyers to absorb all the production, during a meeting with trade unionists and producers of northern Formosa. However what we got was limited to the offer of 8 million pesos for credits through FONDAGRO, destined to all the logistics that surrounds the sale process," he said.

"Now, the national government offers taking 1,000 weekly boxes of bananas to sell in alternative markets in Buenos Aires, when nowadays, to decompress the offer it is necessary to sell 15,000 boxes per day," he added.

"Currently, occasional buyers offer the primary sector about $ 1.50 per kilogram of banana produced, when they should receive $ 3.50 to cover production costs and make a profit," he said.

"This state of affairs only confirms that the actions of Buryaile are completely inconsequential, to the point that we haven't seen any real commitment of his part," he said.

Juan Jose Ortega, of the Association of Producers of Fruits and Vegetables of Salta and Jujuy, said: "The same thing is happening to us in Salta. If Formosa can't sell its bananas in Buenos Aires because of low prices, it has to look for the nearest markets, and that is us. Then, the product of Formosa is sent to the market of Tucumán, to the market of Salta and to the market of Jujuy at ridiculously low prices, which means we can't sell our bananas."

"The producers union that we have just integrated agree on the need to curb the importation of bananas, for which we need to request the establishment of barriers while there is banana production in Argentina. Having some uninformed official tell us about Trade agreements with neighboring countries to justify our suffocation is as regrettable as it is improper of those who hold public office," said Panfilo Ayala. 

The banana is the most consumed fruit in Argentina: each person eats an average of more than 12 kilograms of bananas per year. Despite having a tropical area in the north of the country that produces it, the local supply only serves a fraction of that gigantic business. Meanwhile banana imports increase: in 2015 the country imported more than 400 thousand tons, i.e. 50% more than a decade ago.

Argentina spends about 200 million dollars every year to import the bananas it needs. According to official data, last year the country imported 404,279,000 kilos, which accounts for 91% of the total fruit imported, far above kiwi, avocado, and pineapple.

Faced with such demand, there are several countries that do good business in Argentina: more than half of the bananas comes from Ecuador, but there are also imports from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and even Chile, which placed here 191 tons in 2015. The presence of foreign fruit is increasing. Ten years ago Argentina only imported 300 thousand tons of fruits, about 100 thousand less than today.

"We are thinking about giving away about 30,000 kilos of bananas, ready for human consumption in Plaza de Mayo so that the whole country is aware of our reality," said the producer from Formosa; a measure they will take if they don't get quick official answers.

He also said he thought Minister Buryaile "lies and only makes official speeches directed to the political class, because they are not translated into concrete answers. This is something that people in Salta and Jujuy also know."

"The data made public by Minister Buryaile regarding the amount of hectares of bananas that existed and exist in Argentina are far-fetched: to say that in 1990 there were 200,000 hectares of bananas in Argentina is false. Back then our production did not exceeded 15,000 hectares, and saying they decreased to 80,000 hectares in 2016 is also a lie because last year, and currently, there are only about 5,000 hectares of banana in Argentina," he said.

Source: expresdiario.com.ar

Publication date: 7/12/2017


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